Accident Prevention….
By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi

maxpk@vsnl.com

Accidents are a major cause of injury, disability and death, particularly among young children and older people. In England, accidents are responsible for 10,000 deaths a year. In India, It is difficult to come by such statistics concerning all types of accidents. But road accidents alone account for about 60,000 to 80,000 deaths in India in a year.

Accidents have a significant impact on society both emotionally and financially. The factors proven to have an affect on accident rates are: Age; Gender - statistically males have more accidents than females; Environmental hazards - such as poorly maintained housing; Social deprivation - such as homelessness and poor health - it may be shocking to learn of the number of destitute or 'kanglas' that end up as unidentified dead bodies in every city; Physical and mental health - depression and stress can increase the risk of accidents; Alcohol and Drugs it is estimated, - is a factor in 20% - 30% of all accidents; Seasonal variations; and Human behaviour - an individual's attitude toward risk and safety is a major contributor of accident rates.

Home Safety assumes importance, since one third of all accidents to adults are said to occur in the home. The home is also a site of many serious accidents to children from fires, burns, drowning, choking, poisoning and cuts. About half the deaths among children under 5 happen in the home.

A house is full of potential hazards that can lead to accidents such as falls. Falls are the most common cause of serious injury and accidental death in the home. Many home accidents can be prevented by a few simple modifications to your home:
One should be careful where one puts the furniture: One should make sure that pathways within your home are unobstructed and free from clutter. While storing up stuff, frequently used items should be stored in areas that are easy to access. Stretching to reach shelves that are too high increases your risk of having an accident. Likewise, it is wise to have handrails along your stairs, which will help provide balance.

Not everyone in India use rugs and carpets on their floors. Those who do, should take pains to repair or remove frayed or curled edges of rugs as these may cause you to trip and fall. In addition, use non-slip mats under rugs to keep them from sliding when you walk on them. In houses with bathtubs and showers, to avoid slipping, install handrails for support and put non-slip mats in the tub. It is wise to keep windows unblocked and clear for emergency exit, for fire safety.

Be sure that tables have sturdy legs. Avoid tables with glass tops as they can cause injury if you bump into a sharp edge. Chairs should be stable too. Never use chairs with wheels for support.
Make sure you have enough lighting in all areas of your home and that the lights are sufficiently bright to see any hazards. Also ensure that wires and cords railing wires away from walking areas in your home.

In larger houses and establishments, install a smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially in the bedrooms. And check regularly that it's batteries are working. The other day I returned from a party at a friend's place, only to learn in the morning that the beautiful mansion of the evening lay ruined in ashes in a fire triggered off by an electric short circuit at the air-conditioner.

Older people are at particular risk of death and disability from falls on stairs or steps. Innumerable people over the age of 65 years are killed annually in falls. Abroad, there are specific programmes for 'Avoiding slips, trips and broken hips' organized not only by concerned government departments, but also by volunteer social action groups within the community.

Some simple steps can prevent pain and injury caused by falls. Keep physically active. Weak muscles and poor balance can cause someone to fall. Regular exercise such as brisk walking or light gardening can improve these conditions. Take fewer risks in your routine. When getting out of bed or up from a chair, take your time. It is a good idea to do it in slow stages, so as not to become light-headed. Be aware of changes in your health. Have regular eye tests and foot care. Let a friend or neighbour know if you are feeling unwell.

Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Ensure that you get enough calcium to keep your bones strong and reduce the risk of fracture. Choose low-fat versions of calcium rich foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. Avoid wearing loose-fitting or open-backed shoes and shoes with heels that may cause you to slip or trip. Take precautions in the home. Simple modifications in your home can help reduce accidents.

(The author can be reached at http://planetindia.net/maxwell or his email: maxpk@vsnl.com )
800 words. 19.05.2003:Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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